It's a lonely mountain, but animal activists are gonna climb it in hopes of changing what they perceive to be awful practices regarding the use of animals in the movie business.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking the New Zealand government to investigate allegations that producers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey caused the deaths of several horses, goats, sheep and other critters during filming due to poor living conditions.
The news comes a little more than a week after PETA caused a stir when it publicized abuse allegations from several animal wranglers working on the production who said director Peter Jackson's production company, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. ignored their concerns and that the animals' deaths could have been avoided.
In a letter dated Nov. 20 and sent to David Carter, Minister of Primary Industries, the animal rights organization requested that his department probe whether the Oscar-winning filmmaker and the studios violated any of the country's animal protection laws.
"New Zealand authorities must send a message to the international film community that no production, however high-profile, can get away with fatally neglecting animals," said PETA's senior vice president Lisa Lange.
Should any wrongdoing be found, the group is demanding that Jackson and company be held "criminally responsible" for the injuries and deaths. All in all, the letter claims that at least 27 animals died on the farm where they were being housed for The Hobbit, either by falling into sinkholes on the property, contracting worms or, in the case of more than a dozen chickens, being mauled to death by dogs.
No word whether the government plans to look into the matter.
Jackson, New Line and Warner Bros. have since vehemently denied the allegations, saying in a statement that "extraordinary measures" were taken during filming to make sure there was no "undue stress" placed on the animals. They also pointed out that 55 percent of shots featuring all kinds of fauna were computer-generated and that any incidents that occurred "were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken." That included spending thousands to upgrade housing and stable facilities in early 2011.
The helmer additionally spoke out on his Facebook page, calling PETA's charge that a horse had been hobbled during the making of The Hobbit "unsubstantiated."
"To date, the only horse wranglers whose treatment of animals fell below the production's standard of care seem to be the two wranglers who have chosen to level this new accusation on the eve of the premiere of the first Hobbit film and who were dismissed by the production over a year ago. Reports of their actions are documented in several written statements dating back to October 2011," he wrote.